Für Elise

Congratulations to the daughter of a certain member of the Dread Ilk. She made it to the third round of the National Spelling Bee and got both of her words in the round right, but unfortunately didn’t make the cut for the semifinals for reasons I won’t pretend to understand. Well done, and congratulations to her and her parents.

Sam Harris and the epic self-evisceration

My original intent upon finishing Sam Harris’s latest book was to write a detailed critique of it. However, in reading it, I realized that it actually contained something much more interesting than the expected collection of conventional Harrisian errors, as it amounted to a rebuttal of the man’s previous work! So, although I intend to critique Free Will in the near future, I thought it would be more important to look at how Harris’s latest arguments affect his earlier ones. In The Irrational Atheist, I noted that Christopher Hitchens had committed a marvelous exercise in self-evisceration when he declared that “what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence”, then proceeded to pronounce no fewer than 52 different declarations, each of which was presented completely without evidence. However, it would appear that Sam Harris is more than worthy of filling the late Mr. Hitchens giant clown shoes, as he has effortlessly surpassed that feat of self-defeating logic with his latest adventure in science-flavored polemic. However, to fully appreciate the full scope of Harris’s unique achievement, it is necessary to return to his most popular work, The End of Faith, and revisit that book’s central thesis.

The basic concept at the heart of The End of Faith is that belief is the root of all human action. From this core postulate, Harris then concludes that because belief causes action – he actually goes so far as to state that “beliefs are action” – that some actions are so potentially dangerous that they justify pre-emptively killing people who possess the beliefs that cause them. He then attempts to show that those causal beliefs are generally religious in nature; the end of faith to which he refers in the title is the violent elimination of faith by, (or on behalf of), a one-world government justified by the religious faithful’s opposition to global government as well as faith’s potential danger to the human race as per the extinction equation, in which Religious Faith + Science and Technology = Human Extinction.

This encapsulation of Harris’s argument will likely sound outrageous until one considers the evidence taken directly from The End of Faith:

“A BELIEF is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Are you a scientist? A liberal? A racist? These are merely species of belief in action. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings.”

“As a man believes, so he will act.”

“It is time we recognized that belief is not a private matter; it has never been merely private. In fact, beliefs are scarcely more private than actions are, for every belief is a fount of action in potentia. The belief that it will rain puts an umbrella in the hand of every man or woman who owns one.”

“Given the link between belief and action, it is clear that we can no more tolerate a diversity of religious beliefs than a diversity of beliefs about epidemiology and basic hygiene…. Even apparently innocuous beliefs, when unjustified, can lead to intolerable consequences.”

“There seems, however, to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another. A glance at history, or at the pages of any newspaper, reveals that ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books; it is what we do with words like “God” and “paradise” and “sin” in the present that will determine our future.”

“The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others.”

“We can say it even more simply: we need a world government…. The diversity of our religious beliefs constitutes a primary obstacle here…. World government does seem a long way off—so long that we may not survive the trip.”

Now, Harris’s argument is as fallacious as it is dangerous, for as I showed in TIA, even if one accepts the logic of the extinction equation, a perusal of history shows that the danger purportedly posed by religion is a second-order one at most, and furthermore, is not supported by the historical evidence, whereas the first-order danger stems directly from science. In 116 centuries filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of diverse religions, all competing for mind share, resources and dominance, the species has not merely survived, but has thrived, while a mere four centuries of modern science has created multiple clear and present dangers to the continued existence of the human race. Even if one accepts the general thrust of Harris’s argument in The End of Faith and believes that the danger to the species demands immediate action, it is obvious that Harris’s target is the wrong one and he should have been advocating the end of science rather than faith.

However, instead of either retracting or revising his argument, Harris has taken the surprising approach of undermining it by destroying its very foundation in his most recent book, Free Will. I suspect, however, that he has done this unintentionally and in complete ignorance of having done so, as he happens to be one of the laziest and most careless intellectuals to ever be embraced by the public. For in Free Will, he completely disassociates action from belief, in fact, he disassociates it from conscious thought altogether. Consider the following quotes from Free Will:

“The popular conception of free will seems to rest on two assumptions: (1) that each of us could have behaved differently than we did in the past, and (2) that we are the conscious source of most of our thoughts and actions in the present. As we are about to see, however, both of these assumptions are false.”

“The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness—rather, it appears in consciousness, as does any thought or impulse that might oppose it.”

“The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness—rather, it appears in consciousness, as does any thought or impulse that might oppose it…. These findings are difficult to reconcile with the sense that we are the conscious authors of our actions. One fact now seems indisputable: Some moments before you are aware of what you will do next—a time in which you subjectively appear to have complete freedom to behave however you please—your brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this “decision” and believe that you are in the process of making it.”

“The brain is a physical system, entirely beholden to the laws of nature—and there is every reason to believe that changes in its functional state and material structure entirely dictate our thoughts and actions.”

“Our sense of free will results from a failure to appreciate this: We do not know what we intend to do until the intention itself arises. To understand this is to realize that we are not the authors of our thoughts and actions in the way that people generally suppose.”

“Unconscious neural events determine our thoughts and actions—and are themselves determined by prior causes of which we are subjectively unaware.”

“People feel (or presume) an authorship of their thoughts and actions that is illusory.”

As he declares that the illusory nature of free will erodes the concepts of moral responsibility, punishment, and the religious concept of sin, Harris appears to be completely unaware of how he has also destroyed his previous case against faith and religion. Being either the product or the resident of the conscious mind, belief can no longer be equated with action or serve as its causal factor, indeed, we are informed that the very possibility that belief can even be linked with action is nothing more than an illusion. He not only abandons, but actively attacks the basic concept upon which all the arguments in his previous book rest, the idea that belief is the root of all human action. Now he insists that a man will not act according to his beliefs for the obvious reason that he cannot; at most, his beliefs can only be seen as consequences that run more or less in parallel with his actions and therefore cannot serve as indicators of his future actions. This severing of the link between belief and action completely eliminates the viability of Harris’s claim that religious beliefs are intrinsically dangerous as well as any justification for the sort of lethal pre-emptive action he previously declared to be ethical.

Therefore, in light of the new material, one of his previous declarations quoted above must be rephrased thusly: “Given the absence of the link between belief and action, it is clear that we can tolerate a diversity of religious beliefs as well as diversity of beliefs about epidemiology and basic hygiene…. Even apparently deadly beliefs, whether they are justified or not, cannot lead to harmful consequences.”

One imagines that one of his more intelligent fans will eventually notice the way in which Mr. Harris’s latest arguments have rendered his older ones incorrect and bring it to Mr. Harris’s attention, so I’m sure we can all anticipate a retraction of the various anti-religious claims presented in The End of Faith in the reasonably near future.

The deadly tarpit

Curt Schilling is only the latest lover of games with money to learn that game development isn’t anywhere nearly as easy as it looks:

After remaining silent as his video game company collapsed around him, Curt Schilling is finally speaking out — and he’s not happy. The former Red Sox pitcher responded to critics, pointing out that he stands to lose as much as $50 million dollars if his troubled 38 Studios can’t be saved…. 38 Studios laid off all 379 of its employees last week. The workers, who received no warning about the cuts, also reportedly have seen their health benefits expire. The tolls of the shutdown have affected Schilling as well, as the former All-Star has lost 33 lbs. in the past 45 days. The company’s woes stem from a $75 million loan acquired from the state of Rhode Island in 2010, a move by the state to lure the then-promising company away from its home base in Massachusetts. In February of 2012, 38 Studios shipped its first game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. While the game was a mid-level hit, selling over 1 million copies, it was unable to help the company stay afloat.

What a nightmare. I always expected it to end this way, only I had no idea 38 Studios had been conceived on so large a scale. Being an ASL player, I’m very remotely acquainted with Curt, and I even sent him an email offering to give him some advice on either development or design when I first heard that he’d set it up. He sent back a friendly email thanking me for my good wishes, but it was clear that he felt he’d put an all-star team together and everything was well under control. But when I looked at the names involved, I didn’t recognize any of them as producers I would trust to finish a project and it looked very much like a repeat of Ion Storm, with more money and celebrity involved than good sense or productivity.

I absolutely hate seeing this sort of thing. I’ve seen it happen too many times now, to too many good and smart people who simply fail to understand how difficult it is to build a successful game, let alone a successful game company. If you look at the successful ones, even the ones that seem to come from nowhere, they’ve almost always got a long track record of creating and completing a whole host of little games you’ve never heard of. You simply don’t do a WoW, or even an Angry Birds, the first time out of the gate. How is it that people are still wasting $25 million, $50 million, even $100 million in developing nothing while a proven developer like Tarn Adams has been releasing brilliant, innovative games on a shoestring for years?

There are tremendous dangers on every side in the game development process, and worst of all, you’re constantly working against a ticking clock. Just a few weeks ago, someone sent me a link to this page, with some screen shots of our never-released Traveller RPG game that was cancelled by Sega of Japan when they closed their Sega of America operations and ended all US-based Katana (Dreamcast) development. I don’t know if we got out at the right time or not; sometimes I wish we’d gone ahead and done what was essentially CoD/MoH – or as we called it, first-person ASL – five years before the first WWII shooters came out. But we were burned out, we’d already done very well out of the Rebel Moon games, and the industry was becoming more about the business and less about the games. But when I see one successful guy after another crash and burn while trying to shoot directly for the Moon, it makes me want to set up shop as a consultant, telling these people to spend a lot less money, hire a lot fewer people, and directing their focus on making entertaining games and not failing to even release what is supposed to be the next CoD/WoW/AB.

The ritual begins again

But this time, the Republicans are going to fight even harder before surrendering and raising the debt limit just one more time!

John Boehner, the leader of the House Republicans, has promised yet another fight with the White House over the debt ceiling — the limit Congress has placed on the amount the federal government can borrow.

What I like about this is that it saves me from having to write a column about once every two years or so. Change a few dates and numbers from the last one and we’re good to go again.

Free will and the utilitarian objective

Sam Harris disagrees with Daniel Dennett concerning the existence of free will:

Dan seems to think that free will is like color: People might have some erroneous beliefs about it, but the experience of freedom and its attendant moral responsibilities can be understood in a similarly straightforward way through science. I think that free will is an illusion and that analogies to phenomena like color do not run through. A better analogy, also taken from the domain of vision, would liken free will to the sense that most of us have of visual continuity.

Take a moment to survey your immediate surroundings. Your experience of seeing will probably seem unified—a single field in which everything appears all at once and seamlessly. But the act of seeing is not quite what it seems. The first thing to notice is that most of what you see in every instant is a blur, because you have only a narrow region of sharp focus in the center of your visual field. This area of foveal vision is also where you perceive colors most clearly; your ability to distinguish one color from another falls away completely as you reach the periphery in each eye. You continuously compensate for these limitations by allowing your gaze to lurch from point to point (executing what are known as “saccades”), but you tend not to notice these movements. Nor are you aware that your visual perception appears interrupted while your eyes are moving (otherwise you would see a continuous blurring of the scene). It was once believed that saccades caused the active suppression of vision, but recent experiments suggest that the post-saccadic image (i.e. whatever you next focus on) probably just masks the preceding blur.

There is also a region in each visual field where you receive no input at all, because the optic nerve creates a blind spot where it passes through the retina. Many of us learned to perceive the subjective consequences of this unintelligent design as children, by marking a piece of paper, closing one eye, and then moving the paper into a position where the mark disappeared. Close one eye now and look out at the world: You will probably not notice your blind spot—and yet, if you are in a crowded room, someone could well be missing his head. Most people are surely unaware that the optic blind spot exists, and even those of us who know about it can go for decades without noticing it.

While color vision survives close inspection, our conventional sense of visual continuity does not. The impression we have of seeing everything all at once, clearly, and without interruption is based on our not paying close attention to what it is like to see. I argue that the illusory nature of free will can also be noticed in this way. As with the illusion of visual continuity, the evidence of our confusion is neither far away nor deep within; rather, it is right on the surface of experience, almost too near to us to be seen.

Of course, we could take Dan’s approach and adjust the notion of “continuity” so that it better reflected the properties of human vision, giving us a new concept of seamless visual perception that is “worth wanting.” But if erroneous beliefs about visual continuity caused drivers to regularly mow down pedestrians and police sharpshooters to accidentally kill hostages, merely changing the meaning of “continuity” would not do. I believe that this is the situation we are in with the illusion of free will: False beliefs about human freedom skew our moral intuitions and anchor our system of criminal justice to a primitive ethic of retribution. And as we continue to make advances in understanding the human mind through science, our current practices will come to seem even less enlightened.

Ordinary people want to feel philosophically justified in hating evildoers and viewing them as the ultimate authors of their evil. This moral attitude has always been vulnerable to our learning more about the causes of human behavior—and in situations where the origins of a person’s actions become absolutely clear, our feelings about his responsibility begin to change. What is more, they should change. We should admit that a person is unlucky to inherit the genes and life experience that will doom him to psychopathy. That doesn’t mean we can’t lock him up, or kill him in self-defense, but hating him is not rational, given a complete understanding of how he came to be who he is. Natural, yes; rational, no. Feeling compassion for him would be rational, however—or so I have argued.

We can acknowledge the difference between voluntary and involuntary action, the responsibilities of an adult and those of a child, sanity and insanity, a troubled conscience and a clear one, without indulging the illusion of free will. We can also admit that in certain contexts, punishment might be the best way to motivate people to behave themselves. The utility of punishment is an empirical question that is well worth answering—and nothing in my account of free will requires that I deny this.

How can we ask that other people behave themselves (and even punish them for not behaving) when they are not the ultimate cause of their actions? We can (and should) make such demands when doing so has the desired effect—namely, increasing the well-being of all concerned.

Given his intellectual track record, one of the more powerful arguments for the existence of free will is that Sam Harris believes it does not exist. One could easily go through life with far less effective guides than simply assuming the precise opposite of what Sam Harris asserts to be true. Harris has always been intellectually careless and lazy, but his latest foray into free will appears to border on barely bothering to show up. His new “book” is all of 66 pages and apparently those are generously-margined pages filled with large type as it’s only 13,000 words; a trade paperback has 410 words per page, a mass-market paperback 310; Free Will has only 196. I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon, if the deterministic processes that wholly dictate my actions regardless of my perception of control happen to permit me to do so. Since we are reliably informed that our notions concerning our future actions are illusory, it is entirely possible that I will instead move to Albania and devote myself to writing homosexual love poetry in their guttural, but hauntingly beautiful language.

Isn’t it fascinating how what passes for the thinking of the most popular atheists so closely resembles that of the omniderigent Christians? The sovereign God of the hyper-Calvinist and the nonexistent God of the atheist lead the adherent to the same conclusion: Man is not responsible for his actions.

Harris’s analogy is a poor one because free will is more analogous to vision than to visual continuity. We fail to understand our own motivations and even our actions in much the same way that we cannot simultaneously focus on everything in our field of view. And yet, accurately or inaccurately, we still see something. Regardless of whether our brains light up before our finger moves or afterwards, our finger moves and something connected to our conscious minds made it move. Harris completely fails to realize that the Libet experiment is at least as indicative of a trialist Body-Mind-Soul construction consistent with free will as the mechanistic singular one consistent with its absence.

Harris’s real purpose in attacking free will is no different than his real purpose in attacking both the existence of God as well as Christianity. He’s a pan-global utilitarian and his books are neither philosophy nor science, they are political polemics intended to provide intellectual cover for the global, macro-societal restructuring he envisions. This is not readily apparent, but it is the one clearly identifiable theme besides intellectual laziness that is woven into all his works.

UPDATE: I haven’t finished the book yet, but I got through about three-quarters it in between sets at the gym. It’s that short and it’s that fluffy; the contrast with the Popper I’ve been reading over the last week or so is rather glaring. Anyhow, I’ve already identified the core error in his reasoning and will explicate it tomorrow. The short summary: Harris believes he is his feelings. This goes a surprisingly long way towards explaining the man’s oft-demonstrated intellectual shortcomings.

The unteachables

We see the results of this educational phenomenon from time to time on this blog:

Instructors who award low grades in humanities disciplines will likely be familiar with a phenomenon that occurs after the first essays are returned to students: former smiles vanish, hands once jubilantly raised to answer questions are now resentfully folded across chests, offended pride and sulkiness replace the careless cheer of former days. Too often, the smiles are gone for good because the customary “B+” or “A” grades have been withheld, and many students cannot forgive the insult.

The matter doesn’t always end there. Some students are prepared for a fight, writing emails of entreaty or threat, or besieging the instructor in his office to make clear that the grade is unacceptable. Every instructor who has been so besieged knows the legion of excuses and expressions of indignation offered, the certainty that such work was always judged acceptable in the past, the implication that a few small slip-ups, a wrong word or two, have been blown out of proportion. When one points out grievous inadequacies — factual errors, self-contradiction, illogical argument, and howlers of nonsensical phrasing — the student shrugs it off: yes, yes, a few mistakes, the consequences of too much coffee, my roommate’s poor typing, another assignment due the same day; but you could still see what I meant, couldn’t you, and the general idea was good, wasn’t it? “I’m better at the big ideas,” students have sometimes boasted to me. “On the details, well … ”.

Meetings about bad grades are uncomfortable not merely because it is unpleasant to wound feelings unaccustomed to the sting. Too often, such meetings are exercises in futility. I have spent hours explaining an essay’s grammatical, stylistic, and logical weaknesses in the wearying certainty that the student was unable, both intellectually and emotionally, to comprehend what I was saying or to act on my advice. It is rare for such students to be genuinely desirous and capable of learning how to improve. Most of them simply hope that I will come around. Their belief that nothing requires improvement except the grade is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers face in the modern university. And that is perhaps the real tragedy of our education system: not only that so many students enter university lacking the basic skills and knowledge to succeed in their courses — terrible in itself — but also that they often arrive essentially unteachable, lacking the personal qualities necessary to respond to criticism.

The phenomenon isn’t new, of course. More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle was dividing the world into those who were capable of learning through dialectic and those who were only capable of changing their minds through exposure to rhetoric. What is new is that the educational system has converted a great mass of the youth who were capable of dialectic reason and rendered them literally unteachable. The problem is, as we have seen, that they have no idea that their dialectic is nothing more than rhetoric, their skepticism is actually dogma, and what they believe to be facts are merely opinion.

And it is intriguing to contemplate how Delavagus’s attempted defense of his ill-considered defense of ancient skepticism was mostly a sophisticated version of this phenomenon, as his main response to my identification of his various departures from the text, definitional mutations, errors, and assorted hand-wavings was to claim that my reading was “uncharitable”. Which, of course, is little more than the larval academic’s way of saying “you could still see what I meant, couldn’t you?”

Mailvox: understanding the exotic

TPB-01 postulates an inability to understand the mental exotics of Voxkind in a series of comments I have abbreviated for focus:

”I mean, sure, I see someone on the street, I have no idea whats going on in their minds. Yet there is the possibility of recognition, of understanding through communication.”

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is a common human illusion of believing they do indeed have a lot in common with a random other “human”

You see someone on the street. He has a wiring not unlike that of Bundy (naturally so), and what then ? You don’t have the benefit of understanding – you will never understand each other. If you’re lucky, you’re just a boring bit of scenery to him. If not, you’re fresh meat. You can communicate with him alright – but what possible understanding could you achieve ?

Or maybe it’s someone like Vox, living in his very own private reality which is besieged by demons (and not some fancy-shmancy metaphor demons, the real shit – supernatural evil and all that jazz). Unless you also have a worldview that includes invisible horned douchebags, what possible understanding could communication bring?

Well, *some* degree of mutual understanding is possible with distinctly inhuman agents, like say, wolves, and human “mental exotics” like Vox (We have painstakingly established that Vox’s model of reality includes exotic paranormal entities and a constant low-intensity conflict with said entities, and I am reasonably sure that Vox understands that I find such a world model, as well as agents who sincerely subscribe to it, highly comical.)

The same understanding that is possible between an individual who is aware of the existence and purpose of x-rays and one who does not. Or, to take a more extreme example, between blind and sighted individuals. Communication might be difficult, though not impossible, concerning certain matters, but that leaves the vast realm of human reason, emotion, and behavior still on the table. I have no problem understanding either your attitude or your belief system; you don’t actually have any problem understanding me, your problem is accepting the possibility of my belief system.

Which is fortunate for you. Once you find yourself in the presence of sufficiently naked evil, you will likely find yourself more open to the possibility.

Actually, I do have a problem understanding you, since your peculiar belief goes well beyond anyone’s ability to demonstrate/prove .
A sighted person could contrive numerous means to demonstrate existence of light-based detection systems to the blind (much like sighted humans have managed to build systems for detecting neutrinos, a task for which human sensory system is radically unfit).

Yes, we do have a “degree” of understanding – you “understand” that I happen to have a grievously inaccurate model of “reality” that is characterized by an absence of “demons”. I happen to “understand” that you happen to have a grievously inaccurate model of “reality” that is characterized by a presence of “demons”. Unless I invent a way to somehow “disprove” unfalsifiable entities 😉 , or you invent a demon detector I can replicate and use to go find some horned invisible doucheroos, there is no way we could advance understanding beyond this boundary.

I strongly doubt that you would bother to demonstrate a protocol that would reliably permit me to detect demons, though of course I am quite eager to listen if you do.

“Why not? Surely your imaginations are not so limited as to make it impossible for you to postulate how your thinking would be modified by personal experience of some aspect of the religious supernatural! Whereas you see Vox-kind as crazy, Vox-kind merely sees you as something akin to colorblind.”

I can totally imagine living in your Lovecraft County – after all, I called it “Cool Lovecraft county”.

Now, I doubt you can actually “argue me into your Lovecraft County” (unless there’s a demon detector in your pocket, or something) and thus there is a fundamental limit to how well I can understand your position, let alone predict your further activities.

Imagination can only go so far in modeling the behavior of someone who faces a radically divergent “reality”.

I am pretty sure both you and me would have a lot of trouble really understanding someone who sincerely believes that Republican party is actually lead by disguised space aliens hellbent on conquest, while Democrats are time-travelling cyborgs from a dystopian future.

“Actually, I do have a problem understanding you, since your peculiar belief goes well beyond anyone’s ability to demonstrate/prove.

Why? We all harbor peculiar beliefs that go well beyond anyone’s ability to demonstrate or prove. Perhaps you believe your dead grandmother loved you. Perhaps I believe my brother is the nicest person in the world. Perhaps we both believe in human equality. None of these things can be demonstrated or proved any more than the existence of demons and none of them need inhibit understanding.

You might point to a letter that your grandmother wrote. I claim that it’s a forgery. I might point to the behavior of the dead Miami face-eating cannibal. You claim “cocaine psychosis”. Repeat as needed.

In any event, your conclusion simply doesn’t follow from the premises. And the existence of a working demon-detector would not make my position more intelligible, it would make it correct. The concept is perfectly intelligible already and has been understood for thousands of years. Nor is the claim of demonic unfalsifiability correct any more than the rings of Saturn were unfalsifiable prior to the invention of the first telescope powerful enough to see them; even setting aside the fact that there is considerable evidence for the existence of demons, TPB-01 has presented a temporally limited technological argument that is intrinsically invalid from the perspective of proper Popperian falsifiability. This is hardly uncommon, as I previously pointed out the flaws of such arguments in TIA.

TPB-01 responds:

Well, I find it kind of remarkable that when you proceed to illustrate possible exchange between two agents disagreeing in regards to allegations of a poorly documented deceased person, you kind of make my point for me.

There is a distinct “understanding horizon” at work here, running along a number of allegations regarding the deceased relative, and claims related to those. Same goes for allegations regarding “human equality” (whatever the fuck that is…)

Consider the case of nice fellow who thinks that both US parties are run by “Secret Inhumans”, specifically conquest-crazy space aliens for Republicans and creepy cyborgs from the future for Democrats. We can establish *some* degree of understanding (at least, we can find out hypothetical person’s weird beliefs and establish an understanding in regards to the fact that we disagree with him and he disagrees with us), but there’s only so far we could go. When imagining ourselves in his shoes we will only muster a distorted projection reflecting neither his actual state nor our own (kind of like imagining yourself as participating in a battle and actually participating in a very real fucking battle are two different things), and same would be true for him (assuming he ever bothers to try imagining what our worldview feels like).

Same of course goes for unverifiable and unfalsifiable assertions regarding dead relatives.

Human equality… well, for starters it would be nice to define it in a way that does not summon Captain Obvious 😉 then see if anything approaching a framework for pragmatically assessing various such “claims”. I find it entirely plausible that there is as little chance of understanding between you and hypothetical “equality fellow” in regards to this vague “equality” thingamajig as between you and me in regards to the existence of supernatural intelligent forces scheming to affect the world in some manner.

The dilemma of a dynamic perspective

It would appear I’m hardly the only one to see the similarities between the rhetoric of the Israeli government and the behavior of the Jewish mob and the past rhetoric and behavior of other nations:

Last Thursday morning I woke up feeling more embarrassed for the state of Israel than almost ever before. Considering pogroms, racism (known in Israel almost exclusively as Anti-Semitism) and refugees are such central topics in Jewish history, collective memory and the Israeli education system, one would think that we would be the first to recognize such acts happening in our own backyard.

Apparently not.

Rather, it seems that the recent influx of migrants from Africa and their “taking over” of “our” cities has created a blind spot in our national conscious. Sadly, the riots in south Tel Aviv have demonstrated that nearly a century later, some of us are no better than our former European and Russian hosts who wanted nothing more than for us to leave their country.

Is it a blind spot or is it a newly clarified vision? Ironically, it would appear that I have less problem with Israelis who wish to maintain a Jewish state than some Jews. I do, however, take exception to those who actively oppose the idea of Israel or any other country being permitted to preserve its primary national identity by closing itself off to migrational waves, and American Jews are only a small, if vocal, percentage of a broad range of globalist multiculturalists who oppose that right. I have to give some credit to Feldman and others who would have Israel abide by the same principles that they insist other countries should obey, even though I think they are mistaken and that both the current Israelis are, and the historical non-Jewish nations were, operating fully within their rights to refuse to permit foreign nationals to dwell among them. That doesn’t justify pogroms or violence, of course, merely the peaceful deportation of foreigners to their former country or nation of origin.

On a related note, Chelm Wiseman has begun to respond to my first point, first with what he terms a primer on Jewish immigration views, followed by a post contemplating the four different types of residents and his perspective on a country’s responsibility to them. I don’t fully agree with his perspective, but it is far closer to mine than one might imagine, as he asserts “I believe that a sovereign state has the right to determine who resides within its borders, although that comes with some limitations.”

The devil, of course, being in the details of those limitations, which we shall no doubt discuss in future posts. However, I think the issue of the observed Jewish hypocrisy on the issue of immigration is quite easily explained, and without resorting to any bizarre collectivist theories. The fact of the matter is that until very recently, the Jewish perspective on immigration was entirely shaped by their 2,000-year experience as migrants, with no sense of ownership in a geographically established location or even a viable, self-sustaining society to call their own. Now finally they’ve got one again, so naturally, their perspective has begun changing in precisely the same way that a worker promoted into management has no choice but to begin to understand that the past decisions of management are not necessarily based in pure evil, avarice, and hatred for the working class, but are much more often the necessary consequences of events.

Of course, this process of promotion-based perspective-broadening is often intellectually painful, as it usually involves giving up long cherished myths, some of which have sustained the worker and perhaps even driven him to the success that led to his promotion. One would hope that the Jews of Israel can learn from the mistakes of those who historically sought to defend their nations from the influence of unwanted foreigners even as they begin to understand the reasoning of those who deported their ancestors long ago. There will always be some who hate Jews for one reason or another, but I suspect many Israelis, especially those in positions of responsibility for the continued survival of their country, will soon understand, assuming they do not already, that most of the nations that expelled their ancestors harbored no more intrinsic hate for the Jews than modern Israelis harbor intrinsic hate for the Sudanese now in their midst. A desire to live among one’s own kind and protect one’s own people from dissolution and eventual destruction by foreign influences is not hate, but rather love. It is love for one’s people, and love for their culture, language, and traditions. This is a concept that Jews should understand and respect as well as anyone.

WND column

De Facto Marriage

It is no secret that marriage has been on the decline in the United States even as illegitimacy is on the rise. The problem is obvious: No-fault divorce combined with abusive child support and post-marital support laws has increased the incentive for women to end marriages while simultaneously driving up the cost of ending them to men. As economics would predict, providing incentives for ending marriages to women has increased the percentage of women ending them, while increasing the potential cost of marriage has decreased the number of men willing to take the risk. As is the case with so many government actions, the laws intended to revise marriage, beginning with the California Family Law Act of 1969, were predicated on static human behavior and failed to take into account their own influence on how men and women would subsequently behave

Peasant Game

This Alpha Game post is dedicated to my friends at Fraters Libertas:

I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is a much more serious and underlying problem [than the Beer Shield] on display here. By holding a beer, by drinking beer, by even being credibly identified as a beer drinker, a man is signifying that he is an illiterate peasant, of solid, but hearty stock, the sort of man thick-waisted farm girls with red faces and ankles the size and shape of overstuffed German sausages expect to meet out behind the haystacks. Civilized men who attract beautiful women drink wine, preferably red wine, although prosecco and lambrusco are acceptable alternatives in the summer heat or on Friday night with pizza.